Frank

August 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This odd little gem is hard to describe.  It’s based loosely on the true story of Frank Sidebottom, a character played by singer/musician Chris Sievey.  In real life, Sievey (who died of throat cancer at 55) stepped in and out of the character of Frank (who wore a giant fiberglass head) all the time.  While as Frank, he performed his weirdly perky/disturbing songs all over England, gaining a small amount of fame and an even smaller following, sometimes despite his apparent best efforts to undermine himself.  In the film, Frank never removes the head and nobody knows what he looks like (a particularly sly joke, given that we all know he’s played by Michael Fassbender).  He and his unpronounceable band sit around being pretentious and making wholly intolerable music together.  The film is told from the point of view of Jon, played by Irish actor, Domhnall Gleeson (“Calvary,” “About Time,” best known for Bill Weasley in the “Harry Potter” series and, like every other almost-known in Hollywood, is going to be in the new “Star Wars” film).   He represents Jon Ronson, who wrote the screenplay based on his own experience with Sievey and Frank.  Jon is the audience’s window into the absurdity and he observes it with a sometimes wry/sometimes naive detachment.  Most of the film proceeds from this perspective and is absurdist, silly and oddly funny.  But, during the second half, the movie takes on a darker, more menacing tone that creeps in so slowly that, though I can see the exact moment it began in retrospect, I did not notice it until long after it had descended.  This tone shifts again toward an unexpected sentimentality for the last quarter of the film.  And, while it got dangerously close to becoming a sappy mess at one point, it judiciously pulled back and the final scene, while definitely sentimental, felt well-earned, sweet and effective.  In those moments, Frank appeared to be channeling the late Ian Curtis from Joy Division.  It was a brilliant touch that helped ground Frank in the real world.  Yes, this film is absurd and Frank is absurd but creativity does not come without a price and, for some, that price is their sanity.

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